The South Carolina Gamecocks won their opener against the North Carolina Tar Heels 17-13, but it wasn't a pretty affair. Following Bill Connelly's Five Factors of winning, here is how the game went for these teams. And so you know, I counted sacks as pass plays, so they won't show up in the run stats. Plus, I don't include kneels or spikes.
I don't exactly know how to calculate Bill's explosiveness measure of equivalent points per play, but there is a more basic way to determine explosive plays. To do so, you count up run plays of a certain length and pass plays of a certain length. My rule of thumb is a run of at least ten yards is explosive, while a pass of at least 20 yards is explosive. You can find people using different numbers for those, but that's what I'm using here.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct. of Runs||Passes 20+||Pct. of Passes||Overall Explosive Pct.|
Both teams were about the same on explosive pass plays, but UNC was a little better on runs. Still, this factor was about even for these teams.
The main measure here is success rate. Watch this short video if you need to brush up on it.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR||Red Zone SR|
Here is the beginning of a trend you'll hear about a lot in this post: South Carolina's passing offense wasn't very good.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR||4Q SR|
Connor Mitch left the game in the fourth quarter with a hip injury, and at least partially because of that, the team attempted only a single pass in the final frame. Not surprisingly, then, the Gamecocks had their highest success rate in that fourth quarter as they leaned on the more efficient run game. The lower success rates in the first and third quarters are troubling, but we at least see that Spurrier made adjustments and got it much higher in the second and fourth.
South Carolina's defense did an OK job here, which is a vast improvement over last year's disaster of a unit. It only held UNC to a below average success rate in the third quarter, but it was tremendous in the red zone and pretty good against the pass. No one was running around with a burning jersey, so that's a big win.
Efficiency by Player
Mitch may have won the starting job, but his performance Thursday night doesn't suggest he has an iron-clad grip on it.
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
That's... not good.
Here's how things broke down with the receivers, and keep in mind this includes the two pass attempts each that Perry Orth and Pharoh Cooper had. I don't have information on who Cooper targeted on his incompletion, so one pass is missing here.
Cooper got the most targets, of course, but UNC did a good job of preventing him from taking over the game. After hearing a lot about Samuel stepping up this offseason, the redshirt freshman only got two targets. Googer was a bright spot, but he only got two passes thrown his way.
Wilds and Williams were mostly fine from an efficiency standpoint, even if their yards per carry rates (3.6 for Wilds, 4.2 for Williams) don't impress. Mitch doesn't have a prior reputation for being much of a runner, but he was effective. Carson is the big standout, and his 48-yard touchdown run made the difference in the game. We'll see if this performance gets him some more carries in the future.
On the flip side, Bug Howard (six catches, 114 yards, three explosive plays) and Elijah Hood (13 carries, 138 yards, three explosive plays) were the biggest problems for the Gamecock defense. Hood stood out more with his 69.2% success rate, compared to 37.5% for every running play when he didn't carry the ball.
Howard's six catches came on at least 11 targets—I don't have target information for Marquise Williams's three picks—and it only came out to a 45.5% success rate. His yards per target was 10.4, which actually is the same as fellow receiver Quinshad Davis (five targets, four catches, 52 yards). Howard did plenty of damage, but he might have done even more had he been able to haul in more than 55% of his targets.
The Gamecocks enjoyed a small advantage here. For this table, I left out South Carolina's final drive when it was just trying to run out the clock.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
|South Carolina||Own 33||31||47.0%|
The Gamecocks didn't always take advantage, though, as we'll see in the next section.
Neither team did a great job here, and again, this doesn't include the run-out-the-clock drive.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points|
The Gamecocks squandered a few opportunities, the worst coming on their first drive of the third quarter. After the defense got a stop on fourth-and-1, the offense took over at UNC's 34. They then ran for no gain, ran for three yards, had a false start, had a delay of game, and threw an incompletion. Three plays, -7 yards. A drive late in the fourth quarter could have iced the game away, but failed runs on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 on the 12 led to a turnover on downs.
The South Carolina defense wasn't exactly lockdown. It let the Heels get inside its 40 six times despite UNC's generally poor starting field position, but it didn't give up many points and had a great red zone success rate (see above).
The Gamecocks won this phase handily, picking off three passes to win the battle 3-0.
The South Carolina defense under new DC Jon Hoke (along with Lorenzo Ward) gave up some yards, but it probably held North Carolina to a success rate and explosiveness rate below what its season average is going to end up being.
That said, the defense showed some real cracks. It had to make some big plays to keep UNC down to just 13 points, with Skai Moore intercepting two passes in the end zone and a Kelsey Griffin and Darius English sack on third down at the 15 forcing a field goal. The D made those big plays, but being better on a down-by-down basis is a more reliable way to stop opposing offenses.
The performance from the offense is a bit troubling, but I have to take a wait-and-see approach for now. UNC also has a new defensive coordinator in Gene Chizik, and he's done battle with Spurrier before. It's possible that the Tar Heel defense is no longer a tire fire and that this showing from the Gamecocks wasn't that bad.
Even so, once Mitch is healthy enough to play again (maybe next week, maybe not), he'll have to play better for the team to improve on last year's record. The run game was solid, but Carson's 48-yarder aside, it was unspectacular. The run alone won't win this team many games.
It's also worth remembering that more often than not in the Spurrier era, South Carolina's opener has been one of its sloppiest games of the season. The team we saw against UNC might not be one we see again.